Hearing Services of Nashville

Upset woman suffering from tinnitus laying in bed on her stomach with a pillow folded over the top of her head and ears.

Invisibility is a very useful power in the movies. Whether it’s a mud-covered hero, a cloaked spaceship, or a stealthy ninja, invisibility allows people in movies to be more effectual and, frequently, accomplish the impossible.

Regrettably, invisible health disorders are no less potent…and they’re a lot less enjoyable. Tinnitus, for instance, is a really common condition that affects the ears. Regardless of how good you might look, there are no external symptoms.

But for people who experience tinnitus, though it may be invisible, the affect could be significant.

Tinnitus – what is it?

One thing we recognize for sure about tinnitus is that you can’t see it. In fact, tinnitus is a disorder of the ears, meaning that symptoms are auditory in nature. You know that ringing in your ears you often hear after a rock concert or in a really silent room? That’s tinnitus. Now, tinnitus is rather common (something like 25 million people experience tinnitus every year).

While ringing is the most typical presentation of tinnitus, it’s not the only one. Some people could hear humming, crunching, metallic sounds, all kinds of things. The common denominator is that anyone who has tinnitus is hearing noises that aren’t really there.

For most individuals, tinnitus will be a short-term affair, it will come and go really quickly. But tinnitus is a persistent and debilitating condition for between 2-5 million people. Here’s one way to think about it: hearing that ringing in your ears for a few minutes is annoying, but you can occupy yourself easily and move on. But what if you can’t be free from that sound, ever? Obviously, your quality of life would be significantly impacted.

Tinnitus causes

Have you ever had a headache and tried to narrow down the cause? Are you getting a cold, is it stress, or is it an allergic reaction? Lots of things can trigger a headache and that’s the problem. The symptoms of tinnitus, though fairly common, also have a wide variety of causes.

The cause of your tinnitus symptoms might, in some cases, be obvious. In other cases, you may never really know. Generally speaking, however, tinnitus may be caused by the following:

  • Certain medications: Some over-the-counter or prescription drugs can cause you to hear ringing in your ears. Typically, that ringing disappears once you quit using the medication in question.
  • Ear infections or other blockages: Just like a cold or seasonal allergies, ear infections, and other obstructions can cause swelling in the ear canal. This often causes ringing in your ears.
  • High blood pressure: For some people, tinnitus might be the consequence of high blood pressure. If this is the case, it’s a smart plan to check with your doctor in order to help manage your blood pressure.
  • Head or neck injuries: Your head is quite sensitive! So head injuries, especially traumatic brain injuries (including concussions)–can end up causing tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise damage: Damage from loud noises can, over time, cause tinnitus symptoms to happen. This is so common that loud noises are one of the primary causes of tinnitus! Wearing hearing protection if exceptionally loud settings can’t be avoided is the best way to counter this kind of tinnitus.
  • Hearing loss: Hearing loss and tinnitus are frequently closely connected. Sensorineural hearing loss and tinnitus can both be caused by noise damage and that’s a large part of the picture here. In other words, they both have the same cause. But hearing loss can also worsen tinnitus, when the outside world seems quieter, that ringing in your ears can seem louder.
  • Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the inner ear that can cause a large number of symptoms. Amongst the first symptoms, however, are typically tinnitus and dizziness. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time.
  • Colds or allergies: Swelling can happen when lots of mucus accumulates in your ears. This inflammation can cause tinnitus.

Treatment will obviously be easier if you can figure out the cause of your tinnitus symptoms. Clearing a blockage, for instance, will relieve tinnitus symptoms if that’s what is causing them. But the cause of their tinnitus symptoms may never be known for some individuals.

Diagnosing Tinnitus

If your ears ring for a few minutes and then it recedes, it’s not really something that needs to be diagnosed (unless it takes place frequently). Having said that, it’s never a bad idea to check in with us to schedule a hearing screening.

But you should absolutely make an appointment with us if your tinnitus won’t go away or if it keeps coming back. We will perform a hearing exam, discuss your symptoms and how they’re affecting your life, and maybe even talk about your medical history. All of that information will be utilized to diagnose your symptoms.

Treating tinnitus

There’s no cure for tinnitus. The strategy is management and treatment.

If you’re taking a specific medication or have a root medical condition, your symptoms will get better when you address the underlying cause. But there will be no known root condition to manage if you’re dealing with chronic tinnitus.

For individuals with chronic tinnitus then, the idea is to manage your symptoms and help make sure your tinnitus doesn’t negatively impact your quality of life. There are a number of things that we can do to help. Here are a few of the most prevalent:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: In terms of cognitive behavioral therapy, we might end up referring you to a different provider. This is a therapeutic strategy designed to help you not notice the ringing in your ears.
  • A hearing aid: When you have hearing loss, external sounds become quieter and your tinnitus symptoms become more noticeable. In these situations, a hearing aid can help turn the volume up on the rest of the world, and overpower the buzzing or ringing you might be hearing from your tinnitus.
  • A masking device: This is a device much like a hearing aid, except instead of amplifying sounds, it masks sound. These devices produce exactly the right amount and type of sound to make your particular tinnitus symptoms fade into the background.

The treatment plan that we develop will be custom-designed to your specific tinnitus requirements. The objective will be to help you regulate your symptoms so that you can go back to enjoying your life!

What should you do if you’re dealing with tinnitus?

Even though tinnitus can’t be seen, it shouldn’t be ignored. Odds are, those symptoms will only grow worse. You might be able to stop your symptoms from getting worse if you can get ahead of them. You should at least be certain to have your hearing protection handy whenever you’re going to be around loud sound.

If you’re struggling with tinnitus, call us, we can help.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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